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Windows 7: Does shrinking a partition lop off content at top of partition?

05 Jan 2012   #1

Windows 7 Pro 64bit
Does shrinking a partition lop off content at top of partition?

I was talking to tech support about cloning all 4 partitions in my Toshiba Satellite A660 laptop to a smaller auxiliary HDD (not creating an image, but a clone -- recoverable image may be in the plans in the future). If the laptop HDD suffers a hardware failure, I can drop the clone into the laptop, be up and running (and source down a new HDD). Alternatively, the newer (faster) HDD can displace the current HDD.

From asking in forums, partition 1 is for booting, partition 2 is the C-drive, and partitions 3 & 4 are for various recovery operations and content. According to experienced posters, Acronis True Image and Norton Ghost will both adjust partition 2 in the cloning process so that all partititions fit in the target HDD, without requiring the partitions to be resized in the source HDD. I find it reassuring that I don't have to mess with the partitions on the source HDD until I've confirmed the integrity & full functionality of all partitions in the target HDD.

However, one Toshiba forum poster said that shrinking partition 2 causes partitions 3 & 4 to start at lower locations, and he found that the recovery functionality was lost. I didn't ask for further details but there are two functions he could be referring to: (1) the creationg of recovery discs using a dedicated Toshiba app and (2) restoring to factory state (Toshiba's are designed to do this by pressing 0 during power up). I want to retain both functions (1) and (2) in the clone.

As an alternative to on-the-fly resizing, Tech support suggested shrinking partition 2 on the source HDD before cloning, reassuring me that it is safe and common practice. In fact, Windows 7 includes functionality for adjusting partitions.

I am new to disk management and don't have a detailed picture of how partition shrinkage works. I imagine my C-drive partition to have content scattered throughout the partition, even though I use a miniscule portion of the capacity. Even after a defrag, you can't assume that all the content is compressed to the bottom of the partition, and when you boot up, who knows at where in the partition the OS is utilizing disk space from.

My main question is: How is it that you can shrink a C-drive partition without fear of amputating content in the space that becomes unused space?

P.S. In a related note (related to the context of the above question, that is), is there a way to test the 2 recovery functions of the cloned partitions 3 & 4? For (1), I can burn recovery discs again, but it seems a waste (and I'd have to figure out how to compare them with my existing recovery discs). For (2), I'd have to perform a disc-less recovery, which I don't really want to do. I like having my current system state (though I suppose if it's just the clone HDD that reverts to factory state, no big deal). I'm wondering if there is a simpler, faster indicator of correct functionality.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2012   #2

Main - Windows 7 Pro SP1 64-Bit; 2nd - Windows Server 2008 R2

When you shrink a partition it will move and save all your data on the new smaller partition. (With the caveat that anything you do to a drive entails at least a little risk.)

Personally, I use the free version of Macrium Reflect and found that restoring images is fairly fast. Not as fast as swapping out a drive, obviously.

The warnings from the Toshiba forum are worth listening to. Every manufacturer has it's own potential quirks when it comes to setting up a recovery partition.

The safest way to go for what you want to do and how you want to do it would be to get another hard drive identical in size (or larger) to what you have now and use that for the backup - no partition adjustments necessary.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
05 Jan 2012   #3

Windows 7 Pro 64bit

It almost sounds like saving to a smaller partition results in a defrag that is more thorough than the conventional defrag (which I would not trust to move all content from some upper portion of a partition). In any case, since saving to a smaller partition can only be done by some apps, it's beginning to dawn on me that the exact method of consolidating content into the smaller partition really depends on the app (and so does the robustness). 3rd party apps may not use the same method as Windows 7.

The reason that I want a bootable clone rather than a restorable image has less to do with speed than because if my HDD suffers a hardware failure, I need an operational computer to surf the internet, source out another HDD, and acquire one (and/or to figure out the diagnostics to run on the dead on). I have no other apparatus with which to surf the web (well, 1st generation iPod Touch isn't really up to the task of serious surfing). Getting up and running again is easy to do with a drop-in clone. On the other hand, if I had an image in the auxiliary HDD, I need another HDD (other than than the dead one) to restore to. So I must have a dormant one taking up shelf space (and becoming obsolete without usage). Or (shudder) use the iPod Touch to figure out diagnostics, source down, and plan, the acquisition of a new HDD.

On another forum, someone recommended an alternative to needing an extra HDD to restore an image to. It involves more partitioning in the HDD that contains the images. However, I have never done this kind of disk management before, so that's why I said that the use of images might be in the plans for the future, when I become more familiar with slinging partitions around.

By the way, Toshiba tech support didn't advise caution, it was someone on usenet. Toshiba thinks it's no big deal to resize the C-partition in the source HDD prior to creating and confirming the clone. I think I like the cautious route better, so I will need either True Image or Ghost to resize on the fly (again, any suggestions as to considerations that favour one app or the other would be appreciated).

As for a bigger drive, I just bought the 500 GB HDD, but long enough ago that I can't return it -- and I doubt I would want to because the next one up is around 750GB (can't remember the exact number). I already doubt I will use much of the 500GB one. Also, because of the spike in HDD prices, one pays a pretty penny to move up (in fact, a pretty penny for even the 500 GB HDD). I'm going to see how far I can realize my scheme of cloning all 4 partitions. If shrinking partition 2 breaks the recovery functions, I might just get rid of them. I've already made recovery discs, so the only function I'm missing is the ability to replace them and the ability to do disc-less recover to a factory state. In the worst case, I order a set of recovery for (in the order of) $66, wait forever for snailmail delivery, or simply order a new HDD from Toshiba (hopefully complete with all 4 partitions). Either way, I will go off the grid for a good chunk of time. Wow, what a concept.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

05 Jan 2012   #4

Main - Windows 7 Pro SP1 64-Bit; 2nd - Windows Server 2008 R2

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by New7user7 View Post
It almost sounds like saving to a smaller partition results in a defrag that is more thorough than the conventional defrag (which I would not trust to move all content from some upper portion of a partition)...
That is correct. A conventional defrag just makes sure that all of the individual pieces of a file are placed together on the hard drive. Resizing the partition moves all the data to the area of the drive where the partition is located, though not necessarily with individual files placed contiguously.

Think of it like raking leaves in your yard. You could make a pile of Oak leaves, another pile of Elm leaves, then yet another pile of Cherry leaves. The piles could be far enough from each other that you still had leaves in every section of the yard. That would be like a defrag.

Or, you could just rake all the leaves into one big pile on the side of the yard and have nothing but empty space on the other side. If you sold the land without leaves you wouldn't lose any of them. That's resizing.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Does shrinking a partition lop off content at top of partition?

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